When Arlene Herson walked into a local cable television office in 1978, she had never sat before a television camera. She had never written or produced a television show.
But that didn’t stop her from presenting a proposal to the company’s management for a talk a show on which she would interview successful Monmouth County people.
The company agreed to the idea, but told Mrs. Herson she would have to pay them $50 a week for the air time. She had no intention of buying herself the job, so she went out and found four sponsors for the show so she could pay the cost and have a salary for herself.
Ten years later, Mrs. Herson is still at it, but more successful in the television business that she expected.
She has expanded well beyond the circle of Monmouth County people she interviews in the early days of her show.
Today on “The Arlene Herson Show” she interviews the like of Tony Bennett, Danny DeVito, Red Buttons, Sammy Davis,Jr., Suzanne Somers and Malcolm Forbes. But she still writes, produces, sells advertising and books her own guests for her show.
Her program can be seen nationwide on Tempo Television, on the Cable Television Network (CTN) in New Jersey (in Monmouth County on Storer Cable Communications and in Ocean County on Adelphia Cable) and on Manhattan Cable and Paragon Cable in New York City.
Mrs. Herson, whose home and office are in Rumson, told her story yesterday to the Northern Monmouth Chapter of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners at a meeting in Rumson.
Long before her cable television days, the New York City-born Mrs. Herson worked in public relations for William Safire, now a New York Times columnist but then with the Tex McCrary, Inc., public relations firm. She later worked on various political campaigns before she and her family moved to Rumson in 1971 when her husband’s corporation purchased movie theaters in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
“The first year I was fascinated. I joined every charity group, I learned how to play tennis. The second year, I thought ‘My God, there has got to be more to life that going to lunches and playing tennis,’” she recalled in a recent interview.
She went directly from a lunch, in fact, to an employment agency seeking a part-time position that wouldn’t be a dead-end job. When she still have not heard from the agency after three months, she called the manager.
He found her folder had been put in the “dead file” because she was seeking part-time work. The agency then set up at least 10 interviews for her, and she got a job offer from every single one, but she turned them down because they offered no advancement, she said.
The manager then asked her if she would like to sell advertising for a newspaper. She took the job working for the Advisor in Middletown Township and loved it. Eventually, she was offered the chance to write a social column for the paper.
She worked for The Advisor for four years, but after the paper changed ownership, she decided to leave. Not long afterward, the met J. Joseph Frankel, mayor of Eatontown, at a cocktail party.
He suggested that she should try doing a television shown on cable, noting it was growing tremendously and there was a cable company in Eatontown.
That conversation led her to contact Storer (then known as Future Vision Cable) about her idea for a talk show.
Eventually, Mrs. Herson expanded the scope of the show beyond Monmouth County people. One way she was able to do that was by interviewing the top name talent that appeared at Club Bene in Sayreville, at the Garden Stated Arts Center in Holmdel Township and in Atlantic City.
Mrs. Herson would not comment specifically on how much money her business makes.
“I would say I have done very well. It varies, but each year it has gotten better,” she said.
Mrs. Herson said that what made it easier for her to get back into the work force when she moved to New Jersey was that she had an excellent housekeeper at home to help take care of the children. The jobs she had before that often had flexible hours so should arrange her work around her family responsibilities, she said.
She said she never felt in competition with her husband, Milton. He was a successful New York lawyer before coming president of Music Makers, Inc., a company that owned and operated movie theatres and was bought by Loews Corporation. He now is involved in mergers and acquisitions for Loews, Mrs. Herson said.
“What we do is very different. I felt I wanted to do something that would be meaningful,” she said.